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The "Cosmic Rock and Roll" of Rich Mattson & the Northstars kicked off Chester Bowl summer concerts. Photo by Jill Fisher.
The week started out with perfectly normal and enjoyable concerts, the first finding the Curmudgeon and me enjoying High Key Monday, June 12, with New Salty Dog at Bent Paddle. I’ve written about this top-flight band before, so no need to say much, other than it was a splendid evening listening to them on the outdoor stage.
Next it was Rich Mattson and the Northstars kicking off this summer’s Chester Bowl Concert Series on Tuesday, June 13. As usual the band rocked the park with mostly original tunes and a few covers. There was a good turnout for the free music. Here again it was a pleasant, though slightly cool, evening. Mattson’s signature kick was particularly apt for the first gig of this concert series.
As I reviewed the published lineup for Chester Bowl concerts, I noticed the range of genres to be covered: From the “Cosmic Rock and Roll” of Mattson and the Northstars to Folk Rock, Country Rock, Transcendent Indie-Rock, Big Band, Pop Fusion and Bluegrass!
This got me wondering about what impresario is in charge of hiring these bands. I spoke briefly with Dave Schaeffer, who heads up the nonprofit Chester Bowl Improvement Club, which works in tandem with City Parks and Rec on the program. He told me that about 50 (!) bands applied this year to play one of the nine slots on the summer series.
Schaeffer explained that Parks and Rec puts out a call for applications in January each year giving musicians a month to apply via an online portal. Six staffers (both City and Chester Bowl) review all the video submissions to decide amongst themselves which ones will be selected and the lineup is usually announced in April. He further elaborated that they try to balance the program between local and out-of-town bands, as well as provide music for a wide variety of tastes.
So folks should be able to find at least one of these concerts attractive. (By the way, there’s no Chester Bowl concert on Tuesday, July 4, where all the action will be at Bayfront Festival Park.)
Next evening, Wednesday, June 14, I headed over to Thirsty Pagan to check out the band, Daryl’s Haus. I wanted to confirm that this was Daryl Yankee’s latest group endeavor and yes, it was he with the guest musicians that are invited to join him on any given gig. On this evening he shared the stage with Ron Detters (harmonica) and Misisipi Mike Wolf (acoustic guitar).
Interesting that he shares his group’s name with Daryl Hall of Hall and Oates, who has a club in Upstate New York called “Daryl’s House,” hence Yankee’s alternative spelling, “Haus.” I stayed for only a couple of songs before heading over to Cedar Lounge to see what Jimi Cooper’s residency there, coined “The Four Dimensions of Jimi Cooper,” was like.
This was termed his “Second Dimension” which was the Hot Club of Duluth, the jazz band he plays in. This band performs regularly at the Rathskeller.
Finally, I wound up my Wednesday evening outing back at Bent Paddle to enjoy its “Paddle Splash” with sounds of Reggae Roots provided by DJ Alex Pederson of TNT HiFi. It never hurts to end an evening getting in a little dancing to Reggae!
Then on Thursday, June 15, Mr. C. and I made our way over to Superior to sample again what Porchfest had on tap. Four acts were playing at four private homes in the Central Park neighborhood. Here we got to hear some good rockin’ music by Sidestreet Detour—Russ Sackett (electric guitar), Steph Jago (keyboards) and Bart Porter (drums). This is a spin-off band from Tombstone Chapel, a five-piece band that covers other artists’ materials; Sidestreet also performs covers by the likes of Bob Seger, Roseanne Cash and Fleetwood Mac but includes original compositions (by Sackett) as well.
Janie & The Spokes at Porchfest
On an imposing porch a short block away, Janie and the Spokes entertained a larger audience that spilled over into East 4th Street. This band is comprised of Janie and Peter Aas (acoustic and electric guitars, respectively), Garth Anderson (drums), Jordan Ash (bass guitar) and its newest member, Mark Wiita (keyboards and accordion). These folks also play a mix of covers and originals. I have yet to enjoy a full set by this band, but what I heard on this evening will spur me to seek them out in the future.
Then came Friday, almost always a big music night in the Twin Ports with difficult choices to make as to which live performance to attend. We saw that the Driftless Revelers from Eau Claire were on the bill for Earth Rider and so headed back over to Superior to catch them.
But before they came on, Wyatt Thomson, also of Eau Claire, performed solo on the outdoor stage in a gritty, rootsy style. And he was good! His original compositions, “Drinkin’ Money” and “Big Cheeseburgers and Good French Fries” revealed his musical storytelling ability. (I liked this line: “My bar tab’s worth more than my car now…”) Selective use of gravely vocals that contrasted with his otherwise clear and on-key voice helped put across the mood of his chosen songs. These included covers such as “Divorce C.O.D.” by Merle Travis and John Prine’s “Paradise.”
The Driftless Revelers
The Driftless Revelers, a string band that plays “freak folk” were up next. I’ve written about these characters before—Matt Sayles (acoustic guitar), Ben Nelson (acoustic guitar) and Jerod Kaszynski (standup bass) whose schtick, full of hokum and crazy banter between songs, belies their excellent musicianship. Appropriately dressed in serapes (the temperature was quickly dropping into the 50s), they were in fine, funny form on this chilly evening.
An added bonus to this outing was the chance to see Feeding Leroy when that band took the stage at 9:45. The two Martin brothers, Lee (acoustic and pedal steel guitars) and Luke (harmonica) were present along with members Sonja (acoustic guitar and vocals), Adam Staub (standup bass) and Nate Hynam (mandolin). The band’s mix of covers and originals is always worthwhile listening. Sonja’s voice just seems to get better and better.
Then it was Saturday. Did I start out with Grandma’s Marathon’s Rock the Bayfront? (9 AM, are you kidding?) Nope, just watched the runners on London Road from my kitchen window. And I slept through the 6:30 am show for the marathoners at 43rd Avenue that Daryl Yankee, Janie and the Spokes and other awesome folks put on.
No, I had my musical excursion itinerary worked out which didn’t give even a nod to the entertainment Grandma’s was presenting (a decent lineup down at Bayfront Park). Instead I headed out to Bent Paddle to catch part of its Flamingo Fest. Boss Mama and the Jebberhooch were on the outdoor stage on this lovely summer evening, being followed by the recent Palomino Grant winner, Ross Thorn, with all manner of our local musicians on hand to help him celebrate.
Then I was off to R.T. Quinlan’s to hear a favorite band, Boku Frequency, which didn’t actually start at 7 pm like I thought, but had me hanging at the bar with “Thomas” (Adam Wambeke, guitarist with Fenestra Funk) and his friend Liv until BF got started a little after 8. Those two alerted me to the bands that were also on R.T.’s schedule.
Boku Frequency’s set seemed pretty short and I didn’t catch the titles of all the numbers it performed. The one that stood out was “Cold Blooded” in which Thomas Harris, who sang lead vocals on all the songs in this gig, used his high falsetto voice to great effect. Together with the deep bass-voiced commentary by drummer Elliot Harris, it was quite the audio juxtaposition. Meanwhile Terry Gums impersonated Jimi Hendrix to electrify the start of the evening.
From there the scene got wackier when the next act, Darsombra, a Baltimore-based duo took the stage. Brian Daniloski (electric guitar) and Ann Everton (keyboards and gong) were responsible for what I first thought might be an unexpected flashback. But no, the two were simply time-tripping back to the 60s with their take on psychedelia. Both dressed in white, standing in front of a large screen on which a myriad of images was projected and on which their gyrating shadows loomed. At one point Everton put on a bug-eyed helmet to reinforce the images of giant bees buzzing around a hive in one section of this visual onslaught. No vocals, just blaring instrumentals and contortions in sync with the visuals while their music raged. Pretty wild stuff. The duo is on tour; Saturday night in Duluth being a gig between ones in Minneapolis and Thunder Bay, Ontario.
By this time it was late, so I didn’t think I would be able to stick around for the last band, which was named Nevins (after the dog in the live action movie, Cat In the Hat). But then the place started really filling up with some younger folks whom I didn’t recognize. So I stuck around to see what they were into. Well, the Nevins website doesn’t lie; it was surf country punk all the way. No vocals, instrumental only plus the showmanship that the younger of two Haglund brothers has in spades. Baby-faced Daniel (age 21), dressed for the part in a tan and maroon plaid suit and black T-shirt, wailed on his electric guitar while his long-haired older brother Kevin (age 25) pounded out a ceaseless beat on drums. The tattooed crowd loved it and when Daniel told folks to follow him up the stairs and out to Superior Street, still playing his guitar, we all did! His guitar riffs were still audible as he rounded the corner of 3rd Avenue West on his way to the Michigan Street entrance to the bar. It was a fun and fitting end to an evening and week packed with music. Glad I got to experience it.